Weston Steelhammer hasn’t played a down of football for Air Force in nearly three years. Yet Boise State coach Bryan Harsin brought his name up Monday.
“He’s one of those players that I’ve got a chance to compete against who has always stood out,” Harsin told The Gazette, explaining why he name-dropped the former All-American safety in a session with Boise media.
“Like Kellen Moore, for us, who is someone you always reference when we have a quarterback who plays well, I think Steelhammer’s a guy on defense people would reference at Air Force,” Harsin said. “I certainly would. He’s the type of player that has set the tone for the players who are there now.”
Steelhammer’s glowing legacy — aided heavily by his career-record 18 interceptions and, of course, that name — launched during his sophomore year when he intercepted three passes in a stunning upset over Boise State.
A stage like that can be critical in building a reputation, and it’s one available to Air Force this week as they take on the No. 20 Broncos a week after opening eyes nationally with a 30-23 overtime victory at Colorado.
“I’m not really going into the game thinking that,” said senior safety Jeremy Fejedelem, who was Air Force’s first preseason first-team all-Mountain West selection in the secondary since Steelhammer. “We’re just going in thinking it’s a huge game for our team. I’m not really individually thinking about that. But team-wise, it’s definitely a big game for us. It kind of sets up the stage for possible conference champions and stuff like that; just building the confidence for our team.”
Fejedelem would be a perfect candidate for a signature performance in Air Force’s secondary. He’s a three-year starter. Last year he became Air Force’s first defensive back with 100 tackles in a season since Chris Thomas in 2008.
At Colorado he stood out with a game-high 14 tackles — two behind the line of scrimmage.
But there are others, as well. Junior cornerback Milton (Tre’) Bugg already has two interceptions through two games . Senior cornerback Zane Lewis’ four passes broken up place him in the national lead for break-ups per game. Fifth-year senior Garrett Kauppila has been among the most prolific defenders for Air Force over the past three years when healthy, and he’ll be facing Boise State for the first time.
“Honestly, I think every game you kind of see someone else step up in a way I didn’t know they would,” Kauppila said. “I don’t think it’s a waiting game for some specific stage or time. I think any game it can happen for any given player.”
Steelhammer and fellow 2017 Air Force graduate Jacob Onyechi (OLB/DB) received commissioner’s invitations to be part of the XFL draft pool as the league plans to relaunch for the 2020 season.